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Subject: Frank Spinney, Museum Innovator

New Jersey
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Date Posted: June 23, 2002 6:21:28 EDT

Frank O. Spinney, who played a principal role in the formation of Old Sturbridge Village, the outdoor historical museum in Massachusetts, died on June 4 in a Medford, N.J., retirement community. He was 93.

Mr. Spinney, a leader in professionalizing the field of outdoor history-museum work in the United States, was professor of museum studies at Oneonta College in Oneonta, N.Y., for some years.

From 1954 to 1962, Mr. Spinney was chief executive of Old Sturbridge Village, in southern Massachussetts. It was founded in 1946 to show visitors what life was like in a small town in New England in the early 19th century.

Jack Larkin, Old Sturbridge's director of research, collections and library, said that Mr. Spinney, as its chief executive, emphasized careful research and historical accuracy, a course that the institution has followed ever since.

While Mr. Spinney was in charge, Old Sturbridge Village made many of its most important acquisitions of old buildings, which now total 40 structures that were moved to its site. They are viewed by 400,000 visitors a year. Mr. Spinney also improved the organization of the village's professional staff and began to expand its educational programs.

In the 1950's and 60's Mr. Spinney was a major figure in the teaching of museum professionals. He taught in an innovative graduate program that he devised for museum directors and curators at Oneonta College, which is part of the State University system.

He also had a deep interest in Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the American neoclassical sculptor whose works include the statue of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman at the corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Mr. Spinney had a substantial role in the federal government's acquisition, in 1964, of the site in Cornish, N.H., where Saint-Gaudens lived and worked from 1885 until his death in 1907. The site was transferred to the National Park Service and is now the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site.

Mr. Spinney was instrumental in arranging for a Dartmouth College library to acquire a collection of more than two dozen boxes containing Saint-Gaudens's correspondence and other personal documents.

Frank Oakman Spinney was born in Springfield, Mass., and grew up in Upper Montclair, N.J. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and received bachelor's and master's degrees from Yale.

He was in the field artillery in World War II.

He is survived by his second wife, Alice, whom he married in 1935; a daughter, Jane Huber of Fly Creek, N.Y.; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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